Paradise Island (1930) Review

Ellen Bradford
Marcelene Day
Jim Thorne
Kenneth Harlan
Dutch Mike
Tom Santschi
Released by Tiffany Productions
Directed by Bert Glennon
Run time: 68 minutes

Proof That It’s a Pre-Code Film

  • It’s a beautiful tropical island full of natives and, gosh darn it, as we note again and again, they are lazy, simple children.
  • Choreography wasn’t the strong point of many any musicals from the year 1930, but here we have a rather sensuous male butt wiggle to keep the number going.

  • “Good lord, he’s turned pansy!”
  • “Your offer interests me, but I’m not interested in getting… cockeyed.”
  • How one sailor dealt with handsy women: “I smacked a few of them around.”
  • Attempted sexual assault.
  • Someone walks in on their fiancee going to town with a native.
  • To be honest, and I may just never have noticed before, this film is the earliest example of a character exclaiming “Hell yes!” I can think of.

Paradise Island: Two Tickets Outta There

“You take care of the pearls and I’ll take care of the girls!”

I can’t believe I watched the whole thing. Paradise Island is an independent production cheapie. Using pre-standing sets and a couple of thudding musical numbers, Paradise Island is a convoluted, racist showpiece of the era.

Ellen Bradford has sailed to the a remote island in the South Seas to marry her love, Roy (Gladden James). Roy went ahead to purchase a plantation and make his fortune, but it seems he actually spent most of his time gambling away his money to the island’s nasty boss Dutch Mike (Santschi) and dabbling in the local women.

Eyebrows raise when Ellen arrives (a white woman on the island, we’re reminded, is a precious commodity, with an emphasis on the dehumanizing aspects of that). Shortly afterward, Captain Thorne (Harlan) also lands on the island, planning on revenging himself on Dutch Mike and making off with a ton of pearls, but he instead finds himself so enchanted with Ellen she just might make a good man out of him.

Paradise Island feels like a stale remix of a number of early-30s adventure cliches, from the innocent woman thrown to the wolves in a tropical paradise to the rogue-ish captain who may have a girl in every port but is ready to learn true love as the plot requires. I thought about linking the exact movies that these plots seem cribbed from but… it just depresses me at this point. It’s also incredibly convoluted, as all of the main characters have their sidekicks and their machinations and it just drags it all so much.

One of the movie’s musical numbers (it’s a 1930 release, of course it has musical numbers) is the boastful “I’ve Got a Girl in Every Port,” which in includes the refrain:

“Where ever I go, it’s so nice to know, I’ve got a girl in every port.
Where ever I roam, I’m still close to home, I’ve got a girl in every port.
In Nagasaki, Singapore, Pango Pango too.
I’ve even got a Lima bean who lives down in Peru!”

In case you’d ever wondered what the worst lyrics ever were. Also, the dubbing for this musical number is pretty special.

The acting is pretty lousy all-around. Like, here is Betty Boyd, badly miscast as island temptress Poppi, doing a sultry goodbye:

Paradise Island is a big heaping of bowl of bad. It’s confusing, derivative… why are you still reading this? Go do something else with your life. Anything else. Move on. I’m about to.

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Other Reviews, Trivia, and Links

  • IMDB notes that the sets for this film are reused from Mamba (1930).

Awards, Accolades & Availability

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3 Replies to “Paradise Island (1930) Review”

  1. I’m pretty sure I’m going to watch this tonight! I’m morbidly curious to see this as I’m fascinated by filmmaking in 1930. I know what you mean about the primitive nature of musicals in this particular year (no pun intended), but I want to see it anyway. I know I’ve been warned-I’ll report back to you!

  2. Director Bert Glennon had far better success as a Cinematographer. His credits include four Josef Von Sternberg films and eight John Ford films.

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